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Next level ant-keeping


23 replies to this topic

#1 Online Trythis22 - Posted July 2 2018 - 9:01 PM

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Updates Here

 

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Notes:

July 16: I confirmed with the original owner that 001 and 002 were one week "older" than the rest. I've adjusted the tables accordingly. The dates on the left hand side are important to keep in mind when tracking progress, especially for the larvae because "day 1" begins at different dates. Some brood that were kept at a high heat have molted into pupae, so it means I missed counting the 2nd, 3rd and 4th instar stages of development. I'm going back to grouping all the stages under "Larvae" as it was before. The main point is to see how fast it takes the egg to develop into worker so I don't think it's a huge disservice to anyone by doing this. 

 

END Updates

 

Hi guys, beginner/wannabe ant keeper here from Oregon. It's been about a month since I've bought a queen ant but unfortunately she turned out to be infertile (drone nanitics). I will be getting more soon. Here's the link to my first post for buying ants: http://www.formicult...e-world-oregon/

 

 

Anyways I find that other than the basic care sheets provided by the very helpful forum members here, there are no other sources for information regarding ant maintenance. I think it's a good opportunity for me to provide the ant keeping community some more information.

 

The parameters I will be measuring in terms of ant efficiency - this is done on the assumption that ant efficiency, i.e. growth rate, is the best indicator of the ants' well being and happiness, if such a thing exists - are the following: temperature in/out, humidity in/out, diet, substrate material, formicarium material, light exposure and any others that I may think of or be suggested to the possibility of in the future. The single rule I must follow is that I must not knowingly harm my ants in any way shape or form. This means not exposing them to expoy before curing, not cooking them, not dehydrating them, etc. on purpose. 

 

I will not be measuring: ant pheromone levels, fighting ability, any sort of survival abilities, escape speed or anything ridiculous like that. 

 

I won't be doing any double blind studies, but control groups will be thoroughly monitored and the testing will be held to rigid standards. One flaw I can foresee is the fact that I will be using equipment such as temperature probes that may not be laboratory standard. However I will be listing the p/ns and manufacturers of everything I use so that my results can be duplicated. On that note, one of the reasons I am doing this is so that other ant-keepers can use my methods to maximize the growth rate of their ants. Because that's what we all want, right? 

 

My plans right now are 30 queens, preferably 3 species and 10 of each to begin with. I have enough space for housing and I've confirmed that the production output for fruit flies right now is 500/week at 3 cultures. I got enough materials for 12 cultures, but these guys breed like crazy even with just 3. Still testing mealworms right now, I probably need to invest into more farms to equal the dry mass per week as the fruit flies. Since I'm obviously going to need to scale down fruit fly production right now, it'd be nice to gather some more info on larvae/pupating/breeding time these beetles require. So space and food will be enough, especially for just queens at this point. 

 

I've built a heating chamber that based on location of the test tube can heat from 70 to 100 degrees fahrenheit. What I've done for my current queen is slowly monitor her behavior and adjust the temperature accordingly, which has always been up. I keep her at 83-88 degrees fahrenheit right now only because I do not want to exceed 90 degrees without giving her an option to move. I've designed a very small (1"x3"x3") vertical formicarium based on the structures of ant nests found in nature that would allow a temperature gradient of between 75 and 95 degrees fahrenheit, but it requires at least 10 workers for a safe move. Hydration at all levels of the structure and a very small humidity gradient is achieved via a sponge and vertical pour of either clay, grout or ytong. A larger humidity gradient can be achieved with a larger population and subsequent larger formicarium. I do not have humidity data for the current queen because she is in a test tube and I found no immediate need to buy a humidity/moisture sensor. 

 

Anyways this is one hell of a hobby and I will be active in nearly all aspects of ant-keeping. I will be posting all diagrams (crude blueprints) for the formicariums I make, all materials and testing equipment used and all data from growth rate to temperature to the weight of protein sources fed to the ants. Again, the goal is for ant keepers to benefit, learn, and most importantly reproduce the results I get from my experiments, which is not to harm the ants in any way. 

 

As soon as I have at least 10 queens, I will assign the control groups, parameters for testing and begin the study, which will obviously have to be adjusted to take into account the estimated date of the queens' nuptial flights/capture date and other non-standardizing factors. It's no thesis - but it'll certainly be better and more detailed data than what I've been able to find so far. 

 

I will be here for a long time because I have just realized that the things I enjoyed during my childhood actually make me the happiest in life. I've recently started a long career path regarding one of these things and although I did want to become an entomologist, unfortunately they don't pay well compared to what I do now and I needed to go back to school for that. So ant-keeping as a hobby is about the next best thing. I look forward to sharing ant experiences with you guys and I think it'll be a fun journey. One of my dreams right now is to literally have a backyard aquarium (~800 cubic feet) full of ants. I believe that's enough capacity for at least 500,000 ants. If I stop posting without saying I'm done, it means I died.

 

Thanks for reading guys. 


Edited by Trythis22, Today, 10:26 PM.

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#2 Offline Scrixx - Posted July 2 2018 - 9:54 PM

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This sounds like it'll be interesting to follow. It seems well thought out so it'll be test of endurance to stay on top of documentation.

 

Will you be measuring mass of the food items to ensure similar intake for all the colonies?

 

Since there will be only 10 colonies of each species, that leaves you with a very small sample size for each test group. Even a control group with one experimental group leaves you with 5 colonies for each one. 

 

On top of that, there's the concern of the colonies dying within their first year. I've heard and experienced that about 10% of colonies fail the first year despite surviving the founding stages. If you lose 1 colony from each group, your sample sizes gets even lower.

 

For your purposes I believe it would be better to have 30 of the same species, 10 for control with two groups of 10 for your experimental groups. Or even only one control group of 15 and an experimental group of 15. It would be better to have a bigger group but it would be less fun and interesting since you can only test one thing at a time. I'd opt for the three groups of 10.

 

How about testing liquid amino acids for one group and whole insects for the other? I've been curious to see if liquid amino acids would be better. I'm hypothesizing that it is better since those are already broken down protein and are more easily used by the organisms. However, whole insects provide a wider variety of nutrients and maybe even other protein chains that the ants cannot synthesize from the liquid amino acids.

 

Just some thoughts. Good luck!


Scrixx's Adoption Center - Camponotus and Formica available now! 

 

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#3 Offline Serafine - Posted July 2 2018 - 11:34 PM

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Anyways I find that other than the basic care sheets provided by the very helpful forum members here, there are no other sources for information regarding ant maintenance. I think it's a good opportunity for me to provide the ant keeping community some more information.

General antkeeping guide on reddit (there will be a special chapter about maintenance (/waste disposal, etc.) in the future):

https://www.reddit.c...i/general_guide

 

Antstore has caresheets for every species (while they may not be perfect, they are at least decent):

https://www.antstore...arden-Ant-.html

 

Those caresheets are in german but Google Translate should work alright on them:

http://www.ameisenfo...iefe/?letter=C

 

 

The idea sounds interesting but your are likely going to need more than fruit flies and mealworms in the long run - my Camponotus don't like either of those. Also documentation is going to be a small nightmare but good luck, I hope you succeed.


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#4 Offline Canadian anter - Posted July 3 2018 - 1:28 AM

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http://www.formicult...-for-beginners/

Most anything in the list of handy guides is well, handy.

#5 Offline Canadian anter - Posted July 3 2018 - 1:35 AM

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Wait sorry. I didn't read the full post. I think individual variation and variation among species will make this impossible

#6 Online Trythis22 - Posted July 5 2018 - 9:10 PM

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I was able to source 5 Tetramorium Immigrans queens the day after the first post. It’s a good thing one of my suppliers seems to have a good handle on catching these queens.

 

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The brown stuff you see there is rockwool. It’s fireproof insulation. They actually exhibit this material at trade shows where they take a torch directly up to the material and turn it on for 30 minutes. Nothing happens. Anyways, heating cable w/ electrical tape underneath, glass pieces glued with heat resistant epoxy and filled with sand to retain heat and keep everything more steady as it normally would underground. Everything in a plastic tote. I tried to make a closed system but the entire thing just heats to 130+ degrees because of the insulation. I have temp info below; just note that this is some low cost 2 hour project I thought up of and decided to do. It keeps pretty steady temperatures. If placed directly on the sand, temps are above 90. Half buried is 100 degrees and fully buried is 110. I placed notes and paperclips between them to add air insulation and seven samples taken during the hottest times of the day show that temperatures get close but not reach 88 degrees. 

 

  • How labeling and id will work: State-Genus-Species-Experiment#-ExperimentSample#-UniqueCode

For example: OR-TET-IMMI-02-03-005 would be a Tetramorium Immigrans caught in Oregon, part of experiment #2, the third colony involved in experiment #2, and then finally the unique last 3 digits that will be the backup identification of that colony. The unique digits are important because these colonies will go through multiple experiments and will be sorted differently based on other variables. A unique tracking number allows us to track an individual colony’s isolated progress. For all the genus and species found in Oregon, 4 letters for the species abbreviation is enough for identification. I used this list: https://www.antweb.o...e=United States Please let me know if this list is incomplete.

 

2 queens were caught July 1st, while the other 3 were caught July 2nd. For the sake of simplicity all of them begin July 5th, because that’s when I took the first picture and set them up. To the best of seller’s knowledge, they are dealates caught shortly after their nuptial flights. I have no information on the temperature they were kept at up to now.

 

  • I should start immediately even with the first five because although minute variables will be different, the actual data I will be measuring is of a temporal nature. So data can be adjusted to match after I give some time to the latecomers to “catch up” after the first ones reach the end of the experiment. So here’s the first experiment. I’m writing all of this in a different program and copy/pasting so it’ll be easy for me to consolidate results by the end. Until then, weekly updates here.

 

OR-TET-IMMI-01: Effect of Temperature on Brood Development for Founding Tetramorium Immigrans Ant Queens (July 5th batch)

 

  • The first experiments ought to be related to heat, because there’s really no other variable that will be both be beneficial and able to be controlled for the ants at this stage of colony development. Please correct me if I am wrong about this. I am assuming that all the queens I get will be placed in the standard glass test tube (100mm x 150mm x 32mm) setup with Oregon tap water and sterile cotton balls. I talked with my supplier and we discussed the possibility of using 16mm mouth plastic test tubes, but we should aim to keep everything standard because it’s a bit too late now. Also as Scrixx noted, I have a really small sample size for now so I should focus on one or two big variables. Below are the charts I’ll be using.
  • Testing procedure will be the same for all colonies. They will all be kept in the dark and checked once a week until larvae are visible then those colonies will be checked every 72 hours. Outside humidity (indoors) is 40-60%. I will buy a humidity sensor to see what the humidity levels were inside the test tube later. I will use a dummy test tube with a temperature probe to check temperatures when I can (times are approximate).
  • The scope of this study is limited to only: The number of eggs laid by the founding queen for the first 56 days; the number of larvae produced within 24 days after the first one is observed; the number of pupae produced within 13 days after the first one is observed; and the number of workers seen within 10 days of observing the first eclosed nanitic.
  • A follow up study ought to be done after this one but filed under a different experiment number.

 

EDIT: My charts are not formatted correctly in the forum post, so here are some raw numbers. 

 

Egg number day 1 

01-01-001: 30+ 

01-02-002: 30+ 

01-03-003: 8-10

01-04-004: 5-7

01-05-005: 12-15 

 

01-02 is being kept at 84-88 ° F

03-04 is being kept at 78-83 ° F

05 is being kept at 68-78 ° F

 

I will be using this same format for larvae #, pupae # and worker #. All of this is being documented in a proper chart program. I am also keeping records of temperatures in the dummy tube with the probe for quality control. 

 

End edit.

 

I am aware of the small sample size. However, I will be repeating this experiment over and over again as I acquire more queens. Everything will stay the same. After about three cycles start to finish, results ought to be steady. I am also aware about the inert bias in choosing the ones with the biggest brood pile to have the most heat - I have ideas on how to counter this. 

 

I appreciate any feedback on how to streamline this process further; I know it’s messy but it’s just me laying out everything in my mind because this is how I think.

 

  • Future possible variables to test: Average time it takes a colony to move out of test tube into bigger setup when exposing old tube to a 60W light bulb and the new one covered (that’ll be a fun video to watch sped up, especially if I move out 10 colonies at a time); which formicarium material all other factors being the same would foster the fastest growth; diets have a lot of potential for creativity.
  • Testing light versus dark in production rate goes against my rule harming ants, so I’m scrapping the idea. Ants are evolutionarily and instinctively programmed to understand that sudden light means danger. I should aim to provide an equal amount of “comfort” found in nature at my very worst. Will ants get lazy without stimulation? That is a question completely out of the scope of work I’m prepared to carry out.
  • Before introducing ants into custom built formicariums, I will test various parts of the setup for temperature and humidity so I can accurately see which parts the ants prefer. I hypothesize that there will be no variance in preference because although each queen may have her own personality, the colonies are still the same species. It’ll be a real shock if different colonies of the same species will prefer different levels of heat and humidity because that means ant keepers will have no way of knowing how to really maximize growth during the early stages of colony founding.
  • A follow up to this study should be done, but filed away under another experiment number. A larger colony/formicarium means more options for more complicated studies involving a wider range of temperature and humidity gradient, as well as opening the way to test more variables. If you have an idea, post it!

 

Hi Scrixx, thanks for your insight and questions. You have a great point about endurance. However, I’m doing this to destress from my work life believe it or not. Good thing I had some downtime during the 4th.

 

I’ll be measuring the dry mass of food using a mg scale. I want to test the variety and ratios of different nutrition sources provided, not the amount. I’ll always be feeding them a little over what they actually eat then removing it after. All documented of course. In regards to the liquid amino acids, that seems interesting. Any particular product in mind? Only thing I might add is that the larvae have different mouthpieces than the adults from what I know – so is this something that’s been tried and succeeded?

 

30 of the same species certainly sounds like a better study for sure, I just wanted a bit of variety because I also wanted to see how the population size and colony growth rate differs from species to species. It would also help provide a baseline model for more ant keepers since it would have more species up for analysis in regards to differing temperatures. I’m not arguing with your point, it’s a valid one. We’ll just have to see what I can source first though. I’m already getting thrown to the wolves for putting out cautious guaranteed offers in my post for buying ants. I’ll keep your suggestion in mind.

 

Hello Serafine. Thanks for the links. I haven’t read the German one before and it seems like a good resource – those guys seem really helpful. I want to be like those people and help out in my own way.

 

Hi Canadian Anter. You have a good point about individual variation. Some queens just outperform others. However, consistent results over a long period of time across many different samples that are properly controlled will eventually show a steady trend. Outliers will be outliers but the goal of any science is to arrive closer to the truth. On the other hand, skepticism is the basis of all science and I certainly need to have my claims checked and to change my mind if evidence proves me wrong. You are not wrong about individual variation and if my tests turn out to be inconclusive, then I will say so. I will do my best to present the truth.

 

I appreciate any feedback or suggestions. If you feel that I am doing something wrong or made a mistake, please point it out so that the problem is fixed early on. Thanks for your comments and I hope many of you participate so we can get better ideas and better results, all for the benefit of the ants and their owners.


Edited by Trythis22, July 5 2018 - 9:38 PM.

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#7 Offline PenguYT_ - Posted July 7 2018 - 2:22 PM

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Hey look!! Those are my 5 Tetramorium Immigrans queens lol.



#8 Offline brianhershey - Posted July 7 2018 - 2:46 PM

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Great project and I hope to follow you every step of the way! I'll just offer some thoughts as I get them, in no particular order.

#1 - 16mm tubes make it difficult for some queens from large species, like Camponotus, to turn around. I suggest a minimum of 18mm. I use 16mm tubes for my tiny/small/medium colonies.

#2 - I suggest you use a national brand of bottled water so you can take away the local variations of tap water.

#3 - Doing a heat study on brood development is a very worthy effort, however, the combination of heat AND humidity may or may not be equally responsible.
For this to happen you'll need a control tube, as you mentioned, but one for each heating range. Then you can get both heat and humidity readings.
You'll need to standardize the tube setups, because the humidity levels inside the tube will be correlated with these 4 variables... heat, water amount, cotton amount and density.
heat - you already got that covered
water amount - just draw a line on your tubes and fill to the line
cotton amount - I use 1/3rd a cotton ball
cotton density - once tamped down in the tube the plug is 3/4" long.
I tamp the ball down PAST the water so it streams past it, then push it to the line, then pour out the excess water.
With all else equal, I would assume that different heat levels will cause changes to the humidity, hence the need for one control tube for each heat level.
I feel this is important information to capture, because once you arrive at some conclusive acceptable ranges, those ranges can be built into custom formicariums that mimic those levels.

#3 - Formicarium design - So far I've come up with one simple design that covers all possible variations of heat AND humidity. Be it circular, square or rectangle.
On the side of one axis would be the heat supply and the other the water supply.
For example, imagine a square nest with a heating cable across the top x axis, and a water trough or sponge along the right side Y axis.
You'll get 4 distinct quadrants with all variations between them...
#1 - hot and wet, upper right
#2 - cold and wet, lower right
#3 - cold and dry, lower left
#4 - hot and dry, upper left
A formicarium of such design could be the ACTUAL study device to gather data! Imaging having gridded chambers across that square and each would have it's own unique heat/humidity signature.
You could block off specific grids and study queen/brood growth, or you could keep them all open and measure their actual preferences regardless of growth rates.
Would their preferences AND best growth rates coincide? ha!, good question!

#4 - Food - I've raised wingless fruit flies, mealworms and crickets, next I will do dubia roaches and from what I can see the roaches will be the best option.
Roaches can be bred and raised in one container, they do not stink, are not loud, will not jump out or require sorting and have far more nutrition per weight compared to the others.
They require high heat for best breeding results, but you can reduce heat if they are growing beyond your feeding capacity.

I was a career Data Analyst and Programmer with an INTP personality, so I live for this stuff lol I'm currently growing my collection and making my own supplies. Who knows where it'll end up :)

Brian

Edited by brianhershey, July 7 2018 - 2:52 PM.

Ants:
Crematogaster sp 1 cerasi or lineolata 1q150w
Crematogaster sp 2 cerasi or lineolata 1q200w
Crematogaster sp 3 cerasi or lineolata 1q200w
Crematogaster sp 4 cerasi or lineolata 1q100w
Crematogaster sp 5 cerasi or lineolata 1q100w
Camponotus pennsylvanicus 0q18w :(
Formica sp 1q3w

Queens:
Camponotus decipiens 1

#9 Offline nurbs - Posted July 7 2018 - 3:39 PM

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Welcome to the forums Trythis22. You enthusiasm is very welcome here! You are very detail oriented, but you may want to see what others have already done before calling this "Next level ant-keeping".

 

Had to read through your posts a number of times, because it's a bit wordy for this old man! But basically, from my understanding, all you are saying and doing is rearing different species and varying their humidity/temperature/environment/diet to see how well they do, and then logging all that information, correct? Again, not trying to be negative, but all this has been done before - but if you think I am wrong in understanding what you are doing, please say so!

 

For example, you can have a sample of 50 queens of the same species, keep their humidity/temperature/environment/diet the same, and I can promise you every single one of those queens will be different. Some will be infertile, some will die, some will lay a few eggs, some will be fail moms, some will do OK, and some will do extremely well. 

 

Maybe a better approach would be to find a problem that many antkeepers have with a specific species (and there are many - read user journals here and hang around the forums a bit and you'll find plenty of problems), and then try to solve that problem. 



#10 Offline Zxirl - Posted July 7 2018 - 7:02 PM

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This is very interesting. Love the experimental approach. 

I would love to see a chart with the temperature / egg for each colony. 

 

What is your control for experiment #1? I was skimming through quickly so sorry if I missed it!


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#11 Online Trythis22 - Posted July 8 2018 - 3:03 PM

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Hey Max! Those are the ones you caught, yup. 

 

Hello brianhershey. Great to have you on board, thank you for your thoughts. All the discussion helps a lot. Your observation for the 16mm tubes is well noted, and you have a great point for the bottled water. I had given thought to boiled water, but using bottled water completely went past me. I'll do that from now. 

 

What I do for the control tube is move it back and forth every 48 hours from the 84-88 degrees range to the 73-83 degrees range and jot down the temperatures at allotted times. The probe is attached to a room temperature thermometer, so I just write that down while I'm at it as well. I'll be attaching a picture of my quality control chart for your reference. 

 

Regarding the humidity, the important part is saturation, because that's what humidity is. Water is 100% saturated and the cotton balls are as well. I do not think the water amount and cotton density would be a significant factor in humidity levels inside the tubes. Please bring up the point again if you feel that I am mistaken and I will buy a humidity probe to see if water levels and different cotton types affect humidity inside the tube. I have to buy one at some point, it's just that for the founding process all the setups are the same, minimizing the immediate need to control humidity because I can't. 

 

Your design makes pragmatic sense and it's simple (simple is very good, in fact in engineering simplicity is the best indicator of competency). I've thought about this type as well. However, heat just doesn't travel that far if the heating cable is set up as it is in that formicarium type. I would love your feedback on one design I just posted, it's right here: http://www.formicult...dback/?p=96888. It compliments the insulated heating setup I have right now. 

 

Yeah those wingless fruit flies reproduce LIKE MAD, don't they?? Haha. I'll buy some roaches once these queens have some workers. I bought the flies and mealworms too early and now I'm having overpopulation problems. 

 

Once again, thanks for your input and it'd be great to share what you are doing with the rest of us. At the end of the day, it's a hobby and it's done purely for enjoyment - might as well help each other along the way. 

 

Hi nurbs! I apologize if the title is misleading. I'm intending for these experiments to go on 15+ years, but you are right in that at its current state, it certainly isn't next level. I will try my best to live up to the standards that you and other more experienced ant keepers have set for me. The ultimate question I want to answer is: How large can ant colonies in captivity become? I'm thinking 100,000+.

 

Yes, you are right for the procedures. However, I find that many anecdotes are not really backed up by hard numbers. That's really the difference between someone who keeps ants as pets and someone who actively studies them. I guess I'm trying to bridge that gap as someone in the middle - my hope is that my contributions ultimately improve the quality of our knowledge of ants and that other ant keepers from all walks of life benefit from them. It's about leaving a legacy; I think that ants are very cool to put it bluntly. 

 

Individual variation seems to be the key word in the discussions here. My hypothesis is that the similarities within species will reduce the unpredictable nature of individual variation. The first experiment is titled "Effect of Temperature on Brood Development for Founding Tetramorium Immigrans Ant Queens." I'm not measuring fertility, death rate, or other factors other than the effect of temperature on brood development. In other words, I am controlling one variable and observing brood development. I suspect that there will be a consistent trend after 3 or 4 rotations. The key word here is consistent trend, or averages. After all, the entire point is the improve the chances of the queen, not guarantee stardom. 

 

It would be nice to experiment with and solve species-specific problems as you've mentioned, but the quintessential problem is getting the specific queens, and enough of them. I have a solution though: Once the queens pass through the 3 experiments I have planned in advance, I will take requests for specific tests that other people on here want to see the results of. Of course, limited to the sample sizes and species I have in my possession. Thank you for your suggestions. 

 

Hi Zxirl. My charts were not properly formatted so I just deleted off the post. Some numbers I've taken this past week for the quality control temps are recorded. Here are some pictures though: 

 

EDIT: You will notice that the temperature ranges are different from the quality control and the charts for the brood. I need to change it to reflect the numbers on the quality control chart. It's good that I did this because otherwise I would have been misrepresenting data. The actual numbers for the mild heat group is 73-83, not 78-83. Room temperature also fluctuates from 67-79, not 68-78. The high heat group remains accurate: The closer the tube is to the sand, the less variation in temperature because the sand is constantly heated and retains temperature very well. Once I have enough samples of the temperatures I should be able to create a graph that would better illustrate what's going on. One reason for the differences in temperature may be the fact that I did controls during May and June when the ambient temperatures were different. 

 

WTyMDW5.png

4FQYC35.png

pd9zxbq.png


Edited by Trythis22, July 8 2018 - 3:18 PM.

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#12 Offline Zxirl - Posted July 8 2018 - 3:12 PM

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Love the chart. ^_^


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#13 Offline brianhershey - Posted July 8 2018 - 5:49 PM

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Your design makes pragmatic sense and it's simple (simple is very good, in fact in engineering simplicity is the best indicator of competency).
I've thought about this type as well. However, heat just doesn't travel that far if the heating cable is set up as it is in that formicarium type.


Yes, I completely agree that a vertical design with the heat source at the bottom gives a much better heat gradient than the flat design I described... good thinking.
Ants:
Crematogaster sp 1 cerasi or lineolata 1q150w
Crematogaster sp 2 cerasi or lineolata 1q200w
Crematogaster sp 3 cerasi or lineolata 1q200w
Crematogaster sp 4 cerasi or lineolata 1q100w
Crematogaster sp 5 cerasi or lineolata 1q100w
Camponotus pennsylvanicus 0q18w :(
Formica sp 1q3w

Queens:
Camponotus decipiens 1

#14 Offline brianhershey - Posted July 8 2018 - 7:36 PM

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4FQYC35.png


The database/spreadsheet/data analyst side of me screams, "Yikes!" when I look at your tracking chart :) It's a perfect first step though, so I commend you for putting it all out for public consumption.
If you want to get other people involved and invested in your project, I feel your data collection practices should be standardized.
I'm willing to help with more detail, perhaps you want to take it offline and we could build/share the design in google docs.
I'll offer a few simple suggestions here and then you can decide if you want to blaze this trail on your own :)
First off is to capture your data in a database format, then you can use that to generate reports, forms, etc.
I probably misrepresented your ID field, but you should get the idea.

For example your entire chart can be reduced to the following columns on a lined sheet that you fill out every 3 days...
Date, Nest, Tube, Egg#, Larva#, Pupa#, Worker#, TempLvl
7/5/18,01,01,30,,,,3
7/5/18,01,02,30,,,,3
7/5/18,01,03,10,,,,2
7/5/18,01,04,6,,,,2
7/5/18,01,05,13,,,,1

The temp levels would have their own index...
TempLvl, Low, High
3,84,88
2,78,83
1,68,78

Then at any time after you enter this into a spreadsheet you can view all kinds of charts to help you visualize the results.

On a side note, I assume this effort is for first year rearing.
After the first year it's VERY difficult to count brood... most of my colonies make PILES of them in different parts of the nest.

Great project! I also see you have a calm temperament as you respond to negative or discouraging comments, I hope you persevere!

Brian
Ants:
Crematogaster sp 1 cerasi or lineolata 1q150w
Crematogaster sp 2 cerasi or lineolata 1q200w
Crematogaster sp 3 cerasi or lineolata 1q200w
Crematogaster sp 4 cerasi or lineolata 1q100w
Crematogaster sp 5 cerasi or lineolata 1q100w
Camponotus pennsylvanicus 0q18w :(
Formica sp 1q3w

Queens:
Camponotus decipiens 1

#15 Offline AntsAreCool55 - Posted July 8 2018 - 11:11 PM

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5 queens is way too small of a sample size for something like this. 100 queens would be ok. 5 is just guesswork,no conclusion can be drawn from this experiment. Individual variation is just too big of a factor in sample size that small.

That being said, I applaud your efforts and wish you good luck with your experiment!

#16 Online Trythis22 - Posted July 9 2018 - 5:52 PM

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I realized that day 7 for these colonies was today, since they were caught July 2nd. I only got back to begin the experiment on July 5th. I checked them today and the data is below.
 
I am keeping all pictures as records and they will be published as part of a final report, which will be much more organized than this. I just feel that updates make it more exciting for everyone involved, create opportunities for discussion and help me be more diligent in quality control. If anyone wants to check my egg and larvae counting ability, please ask for the pictures and I can send them to you. It'll be distracting to post 5-30 pictures of different colonies per post. 
 
Changes: I've expanded the larvae chart into 3 stages to further clarify and accurately measure brood development. Stage 1 is visible darker (yellow) spots and an increase of size at least 200% from the egg stage. Stage 2 is defined as the larvae having an increase in size of 400% from the egg stage, and Stage 3 is an increase of 600% or more from the egg stage. Size increases will refer to length only, not in terms of cubic mm or anything 3 dimensional. 
 
Observations: Colony 01 moved over to a spot where there was visible condensation on the glass. She managed to create a cave in the cotton, making it hard to count the eggs or larvae behind the condensation. Most interestingly, she has visible stage 1 larvae. I was expecting larvae after 2 weeks at the earliest, so this means this species has the potential to grow really fast.
 
Colony 02 also has visible larvae, although not as many and the queen is still sitting on the glass in contrast to the queen of 01.
 
Colony 03’s queen is dead. She is covered in mold, although she did have an impressive increase in her egg count before her death. The eggs are scattered and look frail.
 
Colony 04 has increased her egg count, but I see no larvae. She is the only queen out of the 4 remaining to be visibly startled at the light.
 
Colony 05 is in the same boat as 04 minus the freakout. 
 
Discussion: We need more samples to be sure, but increased heat and the presence of condensation may accelerate brood development. The presence of condensation implies a higher humidity level, and this queen has literally moved all her brood into the little shelf on the cotton. It’s too early to make any definitive statements and the experiment ought to continue as normal.
 
Once I receive the next 5 samples, I might switch up variables to include higher temperatures. Nobody is dying of high heat – if anything, they want more heat and moisture. Data:
 
8qBxSVG.png
NFeKcvD.png
 
Other ants:
 
I’ve gotten confirmation that 006 is Tapinoma Sessile. The notoriously difficult species. I’m keeping her records as OR-TAP-SESS-02-01-006: Effect of Temperature on Brood Development for Founding Tapinoma Sessile Ant Queens (July 5th sample). She is being kept at 89-93 degrees F, although there’s been very little development. As a result, I’ve switched her to the 73-83 degrees F zone. She also has a large mite on her gaster. Is it the mite? Is it the temperature? Is it the queen? She is easily the most panicky ant I’ve ever seen. I am not going to include her results as part of this study due to these factors. Her observation will allow me to gather more insight into the behavior of sensitive ants for the future because I really want to succeed with this species.
 
The first queen I had: Aphaenogaster Occidentalis isn’t a part of any study because she’s only got two lazy and horny sons. However, I’m keeping her in the 89-93 zone and feeding her to get more insight into ant behavior. This one has actually gotten used to me (or my tweezers). She walks forward to examine the food I give her and abruptly runs after the leftovers once I’m in the process of taking them out. It’s the craziest thing you guys. She knows the light means food.
 
-----------------------------------------
 
Brian: No big deal, everything I post is free to copy and distribute. It'd be a douche move to straight up plagiarize and steal credit for the work I did, but honestly I don't care. What exactly am I losing? The help and stimulation it offers to others is a much bigger reward that renders plagiarism insignificant. Ideas multiply, not subtract. 
 
Once this chart fills out some, I'll post attachments to excel files. Even now I'm making minor adjustments to the charts to better reflect data so it's an incomplete product. I'd love your help, we can discuss more in our messages. 
 
In regards to first year rearing, you are correct. I should probably make this more clear. IMPORTANT: I am studying the effects of temperature on brood development. This means measuring how fast the brood matures. This is important because while the egg laying capacities of queens will differ from queen to queen and change as colonies get larger, the time it takes for an egg to mature to worker will not change significantly. Therefore, getting the "formula" right is easiest to test during the founding process because there isn't as much chaos in the nest. The formula is heat and humidity, and this formula can be extrapolated and applied to all stages of later colony development. Yes, I am measuring how many eggs the queen lays. But the real point of the experiment is to determine at what levels the brood will develop most quickly. Diet is probably a part of that formula as well, but there's no way to test that at this stage. Edited to make this bold because it lost formatting from the copy/paste. 
 
So yes, this experiment is only for the founding process. Sorry to drive in the point but others are missing it as well so I might as well make a PSA to avoid future confusion. The title of the experiment specifies founding queens. 
 
My perspective on negative comments is the same as the reasoning behind why I share everything I do for fun for free. I haven't lost anything, and you actually might be dealing with a child who's still in school. I don't gain anything by bullying a kid. I'm also too busy, as this hobby has taken up most of my free time! But thank you for the encouragement. 
 
Hi AntsAreCool55, welcome. 5 queens IS definitely too small a sample, and 003 already died. However, if you are patient, you will see that I will repeat this experiment over and over again with more queens. This is only a small part of a 15+ year experiment I will be documenting. I will finalize the results of each cycle in a report and consolidate the results of all the experiments each quarter, or however long it takes my suppliers to find queens. The key word here is: Consistent Trend. 
 
Thanks for the good luck!

Edited by Trythis22, July 9 2018 - 5:55 PM.


#17 Offline Zxirl - Posted July 10 2018 - 2:27 PM

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Can we snag a picture of the new queen. Sorry to hear about the loss on the one queen.

 

What is your method for counting the # of eggs? I know T. immigrans have tiny eggs, but the # of eggs and now # of larvae for the second measurement do not add up to the first estimated amount. 

 

Do you have a magnifying glass to measure the exact number of eggs.


Spoiler

#18 Online Trythis22 - Posted July 10 2018 - 9:55 PM

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Hi Zxirl, your questions and comments are always appreciated. It's not much, but I'll add a picture of the Tapinoma Sessile queen at the end. I have a theory that I will not post on here about why the queen died. It was out of my control. 

 

My method of counting the number of eggs is to first take the clearest picture I can of the pile, do a physical check, then close the covering of the tube. It takes less than a minute per colony. Afterwards, I can double check my figures looking at the pictures for as long as I want. You are most likely talking about the figures for colony #001. Your observation is correct. Her eggs were hidden behind some condensation and furthermore buried in the cotton. I verified 5 eggs and couldn't count any more without physically pulling out the cotton and the queen. I will only post verified figures and err towards the lower end - in this case, there are probably many more eggs hidden away from sight and I will acknowledge that with a + sign after the number of verified eggs. It's likely she has more, and it's also likely that some of those eggs were trophic eggs. Unfertilized eggs laid for consumption later on. 

 

I don't have a magnifying glass. Does the zoom feature on a phone camera count?

 

Guys, I don't want to do a new post every time I have an update. I will be editing the very first post on this thread weekly with updates. Please look there from now on for updates. I want the thread to be filled with comments, questions and suggestions from everyone else, not me reporting data and creating needless chaos with charts everywhere. I'll create a new thread with the final report for experiment 01 once it's done. More experiments of the same nature (03, 04, 05...) and the same variables as this one will be started as I acquire new queens. After this one is over, the colonies involved in experiment 01 (001-005) will transition immediately to another one. 

 

Thanks for your support and remember that there are no dumb questions. Embrace constructive criticism! 

 

Here's OR-TAP-SESS-02-01-006. She has a pile of 3 eggs she can carry all at once. However, she's not part of any official experiments due to the presence of the mite. 

 

iZOPARM.jpg



#19 Offline DaveJay - Posted July 10 2018 - 10:38 PM

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One thing I think wasn't covered, what we measure is relative humidity, regardless of how much free water is in the tubes lower temperatures will always show a higher humidity, higher temperatures a lower humidity. Besides temperature the only way humidity can be adjusted is by increasing or decreasing ventilation which means ambient temperatures and therefore the ambient humidity will greatly affect the humidity in whatever you set up.
In experiments regarding water loss or humidity scientists use air treated so that it contains no water vapour at all.
You will notice that whenever humidity values are given the temperature at which the measurements were taken is stated.
I'm not sure how you are going to get around this and have results that can be correlated unless the temperature at which you measure relative humidity is the same. You may have to test temperature preference and humidity preference in separate experiments to obtain any meaningful results.
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#20 Online Trythis22 - Posted July 10 2018 - 11:08 PM

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You are right DaveJay. The reason he is right is because relative humidity refers to the amount of moisture a pocket of air at a given temperature can hold. Colder temperatures can hold more moisture. This is why as temperatures fall in the morning, you can observe dew on blades of grass because those water vapors are becoming condensed and forming droplets (known as the dew point). This is why humidity is measured as relative humidity (I'm saying this for the benefit of people reading this). 

 

I was thinking about humidity just today and I'm in the middle of discussion with another member regarding that exact topic. I've ordered humidity sensing probes and they will be here on Friday. I will have quality control data for the temperature zones by Monday if all goes well. In regards to testing, this batch will not have the chance to diversity both humidity and temperature because their setup is inherently limited. I've been working on some designs that may offer some form of control via impermeable barriers, vapor releasing tubes with heated copper wires in them, entirely different formicarium designs, etc. For now, the most I can do is simply record what humidity levels are when the probe is placed in different locations. At least we will have a baseline figure to follow. 

 

Excellent, excellent point. 


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